Friday, December 29, 2006
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What I Long For in 2007
My latest column at Christian Week:
"Nothing changes on New Year's Day," sings Bono, lead singer of U2. Later in the same song, Bono continues, "I will begin again." Nothing changes as we start 2007, but I pray it is possible, in some ways, to begin again.
Speaking in Toronto last year, pastor and author Gordon MacDonald defined revival as bringing something back to life. We need two kinds of revival, MacDonald argued. One is big-R Revival, which is needed at crisis points five or six times within one's life. The other is small-r revival, which we need on a daily basis. I long for both kinds of revival in the coming year.
I grew up in the church. I am used to North American Christianity. Somehow I've picked up some modern ways of thinking about church which really aren't helpful and have lead me to some crisis points. I hope to continue the big-R Revival in how I think about effective ministry.
I need, for instance, to give up my longing for Christendom. Part of me still longs for the days when Christianity was dominant within Canadian culture and the Church had influence. Those days aren't coming back, but that is okay. God is more than up to the challenge.
I need to give up my reliance on techniques and pragmatism. At no stage in Christian history have we had better programs, techniques, and leadership theories. New programs and techniques come out almost daily. Despite all these techniques, the North American church is struggling at its core. The late Canadian theologian Stanley Grenz wrote that a pragmatic approach to ministry is "self-defeating, simply because it transforms the community of faith into an institution whose chief end is not the glory of God and the fulfillment of a divinely-given mandate, but survival." Real change does not come from better techniques.
I need a revival in the way that I think about the gospel. Canadian theologian J.I. Packer says,
"Without realizing it, we have during the past century bartered that gospel for a substitute product, which, though it looks similar in enough points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing. Hence our troubles; for the substitute product does not answer the ends for which the authentic gospel has in days proved itself so mighty." Recovering the gospel, and bringing our ministries back into line with it, is perhaps our most pressing need, according to Packer.
I also need to deal with my pastoral ambitions. "I am convinced that personal pastoral ambition, and a pastoral ethic centered around productivity and success is brutal to our souls and destructive to the souls of the people we lead," writes one pastor, Kent Carlson. "We must become skilled at detecting the odor of personal ambition, then flee from it as if the church's future depends on it. For I believe it does."
Mostly, I need to rediscover true Biblical ministry, centered not around meeting human needs with a truncated gospel in an attempt to win people over to a human institution. Rather, it is about becoming an alternate community shaped by the Gospel, sent by God to participate in his mission to the world.
I confided to a friend recently that I don't know if I have what it takes to lead a congregation to effective ministry in a changing culture. This isn't false modesty. It is relatively easy to be a transactional leader who maintains a congregation; it is much more difficult to be a transformational leader who sees real change at the deepest levels. Nobody is able to do this on their own.
I hope to be revived on a daily basis this year so I'm reminded I don't have to lead on my own.
"I want to encourage you," a friend wrote to me recently, "that you don't have to fix anyone's problems. You just need to point them to Jesus. He does the work - you are just the vehicle that he works through." As Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing." I want to learn this and live this on a daily basis.
These are the revivals, big and small, that I long for this coming year.
Posted by Darryl on December 28, 2006 2:33 PM Permalink
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Comments (2)wilsonian :
"becoming an alternate community shaped by the Gospel, sent by God to participate in his mission to the world"
We all need that kind of revival. Bring it!
Posted by wilsonian December 28, 2006 3:38 PM
Posted on December 28, 2006 15:38 Bryan :
Darryl, I am stealing this and posting it on my blog. Good stuff man and Happy New Year!
Posted by Bryan December 29, 2006 1:58 PM
Posted on December 29, 2006 13:58
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Evangelical revival of the 18th Century
by Michael A. G. Haykin
Jonathan Edwards (2)
Jonathan Edwards was born exactly 300 years ago on 5 October 1703 at East Windsor, Connecticut, a town then far from the centres of power and influence in the transatlantic Anglophone world.
His father, Timothy Edwards (d.1758), was pastor of the town’s Congregational Church for more than 63 years. His mother, Esther, was the daughter of Solomon Stoddard (1643-1729), the powerful pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, from 1669 till his death.
Edwards received his elementary education from his father — an education that included beginning Latin at seven. He also received a thorough nurture in Puritan piety.
In Edwards’ Personal Narrative he notes of this time in his life: ‘I had a variety of concerns and exercises about my soul from my childhood; but had two more remarkable seasons of awakening… The first time was when I was a boy, some years before I went to college, at a time of a remarkable awakening in my father’s congregation…
‘I used to pray five times a day in secret, and to spend much time in religious talk with other boys; and used to meet with them to pray together … I, with some of my schoolmates joined together, and built a booth in a swamp, in a very retired spot, for a place of prayer.
‘My affections seemed to be lively and easily moved, and I seemed to be in my element, when engaged in religious duties.’
But this childhood spirituality, although a prognostication of his future interests, soon disappeared. In his own words, he ‘returned like a dog to his vomit, and went on in ways of sin’.
No inner peace
Meanwhile, in 1716, Edwards entered the Collegiate School of Connecticut in New Haven (later to become Yale University). Although he went on to graduate from the Collegiate School in 1720 at the head of his class academically, Edwards had neither inner peace nor saving faith.
Writing later of his life at this time, he said that it was characterised ‘by great and violent inward struggles’ regarding wicked inclinations and objections against God’s sovereignty in salvation.
It was probably in the spring of 1721 that Edwards was converted. He later said that as he was reading 1 Timothy 1:17, ‘there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before.
‘Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was; and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in Heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever…
‘From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehension and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them.
‘And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation, by free grace in him.’
It is vital, first of all, to note that Scripture was central in Edwards’ conversion. Not surprisingly, he would later maintain that Scripture needs to be central in all preaching, for the Scriptures ‘are the light by which ministers must be enlightened, and the light they are to hold forth to their hearers; and they are the fire whence their hearts and the hearts of their hearers must be enkindled’.
In the above account of his conversion, Edwards also highlights the ‘inward, sweet sense’ that gripped his soul as he meditated upon what Scripture says about God and Christ, and on their utterly free and sovereign grace in salvation.
Such biblical meditation would become central to his piety. Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803), one of his close friends and his first biographer, noted that Edwards was, ‘as far as it can be known, much on his knees in secret, and in devout reading of God’s word and meditation upon it’.
Not long after his conversion Edwards drew up what are known as the Resolutions (1722-1723) in which, at the outset of his Christian life, he committed himself to keeping a list of 70 guidelines to help him stay passionate in his pursuit of God and his glory.
Hopkins commented that these resolutions ‘may justly be considered as the foundation and plan of his whole life’.
Though young when he wrote them, they bespeak a mature understanding of genuine piety — and the way such piety should be evident in all of life, and pursued with ardour and zeal.
In Resolution 26, for example, he ‘resolved, to cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance [of salvation]’. Resolution 40, written on 7 January 1723, subjected his eating and drinking habits to scrutiny: ‘Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking’.
The final resolution, the seventieth, recognises the importance of being circumspect in all of his speech: ‘Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak’.
And in Resolution 56, Edwards admits to times of spiritual failure but was resolved ‘never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be’.
One resolution deals especially with God’s Word. Resolution 28 stated what he hoped would be a life-long characteristic of the way he approached Scripture: ‘Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same’.
The adverbs Edwards uses here — ‘steadily, constantly, and frequently’ — surely indicate his desire to steep his mind in Scripture.
What Edwards appears to be encouraging here is nothing less than saturating the heart and mind with scriptural truth and the meta-narrative of the Bible, something accomplished by the practice of biblical meditation.
This can be readily seen from a second statement, in which he describes his encounter with Scripture after his conversion. This text also makes it abundantly clear that he is not merely thinking of academic Bible study in Resolution 28.
‘I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy Scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt an harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light, exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing ravishing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading.
‘Used oftentimes to dwell long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.’
This pattern of meditation on God’s holy Word, one that was part of Edwards’ Puritan heritage, appears to have been central to his walk with God in the latter years of his life as well.
Samuel Hopkins noted that Edwards ‘had an uncommon thirst for knowledge, in the pursuit of which, he spared no cost nor pains’. He thus ‘read all the books, especially books of divinity’, that he could get hold of.
But, Hopkins emphasised, ‘he studied the Bible more than all other books, and more than most other divines do. His uncommon acquaintance with the Bible appears in his sermons, and in most of his publications; and his great pains in studying it are manifest in his manuscript notes upon it’.
To be concluded
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Part 1
by Michael Haykin
Monday, December 25, 2006
I am about to be guilty of the last one of those things of which I’m not a big fan.
C: CHOSEN IN CHRIST- Ephesians 1:11-14:Ephesians 1:11-14: "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of his glory."
H- HE IS OUR HOLINESS- I Corinthians 1:30:"It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."
R-RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST IMPUTED- Romans 4:5-8-
We are NOT first made righteous, then declared righteous; we are declared righteous by grace through faith in Christ, then made righteous through sanctification!
He was made like his brothers in every way to represent us before the Living God as a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins and to be a perfect mediator representing those he loved before the Father, ever living to make intercession for them. When we are tempted, we know that Jesus can help us because he knows our weakness, our trials, the deceit and subtlety of the devil, and by his Spirit can help us to overcome in the power of His Name.
During the Reformation of the 16th century, the doctrine of justification was called the "theological article upon which the church or individual stands or falls". The revelation of justification by faith alone is the one and only gospel. As Paul says in Galatians 1:6-12, there are indeed counterfeits and other "gospels" but they are in reality no gospels at all, because they do not in reality bring good news!
M- MESSIAH-THE LAMB OF GOD-
The reason Jesus laid down his life as the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, was so that God could be just and the justifier of those who believe in Christ Jesus as Romans 3:23-26 teaches.
A- ACCOMPLISHMENT OF CHRIST IN ETERNITY AND THE APPLICATION OF HIS WORK BY THE SPIRIT-
When we believe and the Spirit unites us to Jesus Christ, we receive all the benefits of his work on our behalf: justification, adoption, sanctification, and eventually our glorification with him! (Romans 8:28-31).
And the word for that union with him is faith. The sinner comes to him, rests in him, trusts in him, is one with him, abides with him; and this is life because it never ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Father's pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter (John 15:1-8).
Paul describes the conflict in this way: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do...As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me...For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - -this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:15-20).
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Good Afternoon. I want to share a few words from John Frame's article, "The Wonder of God Over Us and With Us". It is an incredible truth that the eternal Son of God entered our world as a baby. May we praise Him forever and pray that he will send revival.
At the incarnation of Jesus, the angels stand amazed (Luke 2:14, Eph. 3:10, 1 Pet. 1:11-12). And at this event, non-Christian philosophers and religious teachers look on in bewilderment. In non-Christian systems of thought, it is impossible for ultimate reality to enter time and space. The eastern religions, as well as Plato, Aristotle, and the ancient Gnostics, all hold that the supreme being is impersonal and would lose its absoluteness if it came in contact with temporal reality. Other religions and philosophies believe that the supreme being, if it exists at all, is the temporal world itself or an aspect of it. For them, "god incarnate" could be, at most, indistinguishable from the rest of the finite world.
Only in biblical religion is there a clear affirmation of a personal God distinct from the world He has made, one who is able to come into that world without compromising Himself and without losing Himself in His creation. As incarnate, He remains fully God, and He reveals His full deity clearly to His creatures, even amid all the mysteries mentioned earlier. But this means that only in Scripture do we learn of a God who loves us so much, so wonderfully, so powerfully, that He enters time on our behalf and stands strong to win God's battle in history against Satan and sin.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. JOHN 1:14
Trinity and Incarnation belong together. The doctrine of the Trinity declares that the man Jesus is truly divine; that of the Incarnation declares that the divine Jesus is truly human. Together they proclaim the full reality of the Savior whom the New Testament sets forth, the Son who came from the Father’s side at the Father’s will to become the sinner’s substitute on the cross (Matt. 20:28; 26:36-46; John 1:29; 3:13-17; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8).
The moment of truth regarding the doctrine of the Trinity came at the Council of Nicaea (A.D.325), when the church countered the Arian idea that Jesus was God’s first and noblest creature by affirming that he was of the same “substance” or “essence” (i.e., the same existing entity) as the Father. Thus there is one God, not two; the distinction between Father and Son is within the divine unity, and the Son is God in the same sense as the Father is. In saying that Son and Father are “of one substance,” and that the Son is “begotten” (echoing “only-begotten,” John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18, and NIV text notes) but “not made,” the Nicene Creed unequivocally recognized the deity of the man from Galilee.
A crucial event for the church’s confession of the doctrine of the Incarnation came at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D.451), when the church countered both the Nestorian idea that Jesus was two personalities—the Son of God and a man—under one skin, and the Eutychian idea that Jesus’ divinity had swallowed up his humanity. Rejecting both, the council affirmed that Jesus is one divine-human person in two natures (i.e., with two sets of capacities for experience, expression, reaction, and action); and that the two natures are united in his personal being without mixture, confusion, separation, or division; and that each nature retained its own attributes. In other words, all the qualities and powers that are in us, as well as all the qualities and powers that are in God, were, are, and ever will be really and distinguishably present in the one person of the man from Galilee. Thus the Chalcedonian formula affirms the full humanity of the Lord from heaven in categorical terms.
The Incarnation, this mysterious miracle at the heart of historic Christianity, is central in the New Testament witness. That Jews should ever have come to such a belief is amazing. Eight of the nine New Testament writers, like Jesus’ original disciples, were Jews, drilled in the Jewish axiom that there is only one God and that no human is divine. They all teach, however, that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the Spirit-anointed son of David promised in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa. 11:1-5; Christos, “Christ,” is Greek for Messiah). They all present him in a threefold role as teacher, sin-bearer, and ruler—prophet, priest, and king. And in other words, they all insist that Jesus the Messiah should be personally worshiped and trusted—which is to say that he is God no less than he is man. Observe how the four most masterful New Testament theologians (John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter) speak to this.
John’s Gospel frames its eyewitness narratives (John 1:14; 19:35; 21:24) with the declarations of its prologue (1:1-18): that Jesus is the eternal divine Logos (Word), agent of Creation and source of all life and light (vv. 1-5, 9), who through becoming “flesh” was revealed as Son of God and source of grace and truth, indeed as “God the only begotten” (vv. 14, 18; NIV text notes). The Gospel is punctuated with “I am” statements that have special significance because I am (Greek: ego eimi) was used to render God’s name in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14; whenever John reports Jesus as saying ego eimi, a claim to deity is implicit. Examples of this are John 8:28, 58, and the seven declarations of his grace as (a) the Bread of Life, giving spiritual food (6:35, 48, 51); (b) the Light of the World, banishing darkness (8:12; 9:5); (c) the gate for the sheep, giving access to God (10:7, 9); (d) the Good Shepherd, protecting from peril (10:11, 14); (e) the Resurrection and Life, overcoming our death (11:25); (f) the Way, Truth, and Life, guiding to fellowship with the Father (14:6); (g) the true Vine, nurturing for fruitfulness (15:1, 5). Climactically, Thomas worships Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (20:28). Jesus then pronounces a blessing on all who share Thomas’s faith and John urges his readers to join their number (20:29-31).
Paul quotes from what seems to be a hymn that declares Jesus’ personal deity (Phil. 2:6); states that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9; cf. 1:19); hails Jesus the Son as the Father’s image and as his agent in creating and upholding everything (Col. 1:15-17); declares him to be “Lord” (a title of kingship, with divine overtones), to whom one must pray for salvation according to the injunction to call on Yahweh in Joel 2:32 (Rom. 10:9-13); calls him “God over all” (Rom. 9:5) and “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); and prays to him personally (2 Cor. 12:8-9), looking to him as a source of divine grace (2 Cor. 13:14). The testimony is explicit: faith in Jesus’ deity is basic to Paul’s theology and religion.
The writer to the Hebrews, purporting to expound the perfection of Christ’s high priesthood, starts by declaring the full deity and consequent unique dignity of the Son of God (Heb. 1:3, 6, 8-12), whose full humanity he then celebrates in chapter 2. The perfection, and indeed the very possibility, of the high priesthood that he describes Christ as fulfilling depends on the conjunction of an endless, unfailing divine life with a full human experience of temptation, pressure, and pain (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:14-5:2; 7:13-28; 12:2-3).
Not less significant is Peter’s use of Isaiah 8:12-13 (1 Pet. 3:14). He cites the Greek (Septuagint) version, urging the churches not to fear what others fear but to set apart the Lord as holy. But where the Septuagint text of Isaiah says, “Set apart the Lord himself,” Peter writes, “Set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter would give the adoring fear due to the Almighty to Jesus of Nazareth, his Master and Lord.
The New Testament forbids worship of angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 22:8-9) but commands worship of Jesus and focuses consistently on the divine-human Savior and Lord as the proper object of faith, hope, and love here and now. Religion that lacks these emphases is not Christianity. Let there be no mistake about that!
From: Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs
Monday, December 18, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The second condition is also vitally important. God has not placed Himself under obligation to honor the requests of worldly, carnal or disobedient Christians. He hears and answers the prayers only of those who walk in His way.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Have a great day. Bryan
"While the prevailing wisdom says that born-again Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to divorce, that may not give the whole picture. Sociologist Brad Wilcox says that when church attendance is taken into the discussion, it isn't even close. Churchgoers - whether they are evangelicals, mainline Christians, or Roman Catholics - are far more likely not to get divorced than those who don't attend church."
- Source: Interview with Brad Wilcox in Christianity Today (October, 2006)
Friday, December 08, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Good Morning! Back in 1986, Don Whitney wrote the following article on the need of revival in the church. He sees parallels between the state of the church prior to the Second Great Awakening and today...
REVIVAL WAS THE CHURCH'S ONLY HOPE
By Don Whitney
"How many thousands . . . never saw, much less read, or ever heard a chapter of the Bible! How many Ten thousands who never were baptized or heard a Sermon! And thrice Ten thousand, who never heard of the name of Christ, save in Curses . . . ! Lamentable! Lamentable is the situation of these people."
Such was an Episcopal preacher's description of the spiritual conditions in the Carolinas prior to the Second Great Awakening. The same words could have been applied to the religious scene in most of America.
A terrible declension of Christianity followed the War of Independence. The outer ripples of the First Great Awakening were still seen as late as the 1770s when as much as 40 to 50 percent of the population attended church. But by the 1790s only 5 to 10 percent of the adult population were church members. Revival historian J. Edwin Orr wrote:
The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians met in general assembly to deplore the ungodliness of the country. The Congregationalists were strongest in New England. [And yet the] Rev. Samuel Shepherd, pastor of a typical church in Lennox, Massachusetts, said in sixteen years he had not taken one young person into the fellowship. . . . The Lutherans were so languishing they discussed uniting with the Episcopalians, who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning. He had confirmed no one for so long, he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment. The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to Bishop Madison of Virginia and said, 'The church is too far gone ever to be redeemed.'
Orr further notes that for the first time in American history, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Out of five million citizens, 300,000 were drunkards, and increased sexual immorality multiplied the numbers of illegitimate births and sexual transmitted diseases. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence. Dueling, wrote Daniel Dorchester a century later, "had become a great national sin. With the exception of a small section of the Union, the whole land was deeply stained with blood."
The overall situation seemed so hopeless that a friend wrote to George Washington in 1796, near the end of his two terms as president, "Our affairs seem to lead to some crisis, some revolution; something that I can not foresee or conjecture. I am more uneasy than during the war." Washington replied, "Your sentiment . . . accords with mine. What will be is beyond my foresight."
Five major factors contributed to the decline. First, the effect of the war itself. The independence movement had not been a unanimous one. The Revolutionary War was not a unified American effort, but a civil war where at least a third of the population was loyal to the crown perhaps another third undecided. The Christians in the colonies were divided over this issue as well and this affected the unity of local churches for years. The war also left many congregations without ministers. After sacrificing much for the sake of liberty, young soldiers returning home often found the insipid message and passionless mission of their formalistic, tradition-encrusted local church irrelevant by comparison. A young Timothy Dwight, who would become one of the leaders of the coming awakening, complained that "seven years of war had unhinged the principles, morality, and the religion of the country more than could have been done by a peace of forty years." 
Second, the impact of Tom Paine and rationalistic Deism. Paine was an American patriot and advocate of the French revolution. Few books in our history have been as popular (in terms of the percentage of the population who bought them) as his pair, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason. He ridiculed Biblical Christianity and turned many to a reason-exalting Deism. Referring to the Bible, Paine scoffed, "It would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the word of God." To the Deist, God was distant and uninvolved in the world. Christianity was stripped of the supernatural and presented primarily as a moral code. Although the Deism of men like Paine and Thomas Jefferson flourished only briefly at the end of the eighteenth century, its influence was profound. Most Americans had never heard the divine origin of the Scriptures questioned, and they were unable to answer even the simplest objections.
The third cause of deterioration in the religious fabric was French infidelity. America's alliance with France during the War of Independence opened the gates for a flood of infidelity in the new nation. Whereas Deism typically showed reverence for God, those infected with the philosophies of Voltaire and Rousseau were invariably atheists. This French secularism was especially persuasive among the educated. "In 1783," illustrates Dorchester, "a revival occurred in Yale College, which swelled the membership of the college church larger than it had been before; but twelve years later the college was wholly pervaded with French infidelity, and only four or five students were professedly pious." "Princeton fared no better," adds Orr, "there being one year no more than two students who professed religion." Around the country, "infidel clubs abounded, with their usual accompaniment of sex orgies--so that the national existence was itself seriously jeopardized, thought some."
Unitarianism was a fourth reason for the nation's erosion. Denying the Deity of Christ and drifting toward humanism, Unitarians gained control of many strategic Congregational churches during the years between the war and the turn of the century and split the denomination irreparably. A fifth and often overlooked factor was the westward expansion of the population. So rapidly had easterners left their homes that by 1800 nearly a million people had made their way west. This dramatic population shift not only weakened many churches in the east, it also intensified the irreligious climate of the west. The pioneer areas were often lawless and violent. In The Great Awakeners, Keith Hardman observes that "In many towns of considerable size, no place of worship could be found, and religious services had never been held. Therefore, several hundred thousand people were beyond the reaches of the gospel."
Spiritual apathy, irreverence, skepticism, infidelity, atheism, immorality, illegitimacy, sexually transmitted diseases, drunkenness, dueling, robbery, rejection of Scripture, heresy, lawlessness, violence, and general godlessness characterized America in the last quarter of the 1700s. Was it really so bad, or has the situation been overstated for the sake of effect? Iain Murray admits that "The decline of Christian influence before a revival has sometimes been exaggerated in order to emphasize the scale of the subsequent transformation." However, in this case it is clear that "The Second Great Awakening in America requires no such distortion of history in order to justify its title." Nothing less than a sovereign act by an omnipotent God could effectively deal with the situation. Revival was the church's only hope.
And revival was what God sent. A spark that He kindled in the 1790s burst into flame in the early 1800s as the Second Great Awakening, both in the apathetic, skeptical east and the lawless, godless west. The preaching of the Law of God awakened people's consciences, laid upon them an unrelenting conviction of sin, and terrified them with the realities of judgment and eternal punishment. Such preaching, followed by the application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, resulted in the conversion of hundreds of thousands in the early decades of the nineteenth century. The wind of God's Spirit blew almost everywhere. New congregations began dotting the churchless western landscape. Bible-preaching churches back east were filled again. Christians hungered for the teaching of God's Word. Holy living became their passion. They delighted in prayer meetings and worship services.
It had been half-a-century since America had seen the Lord work so mightily. But He had not forgotten His people. He returned in great power and filled His once-degraded church with His glory.
1. "The Return of the Spirit," Christian History, Issue 23, 24.
2. Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 163.
3. J. Edwin Orr, "The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening," Spirit of Revival, March 1995, 30.
4. Daniel Dorchester, Christianity in the United States (New York: Hunt and Eaton, 1889), 342.
5. J. Edwin Orr, The Light of the Nations (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963), 17.
6. Mark Noll, et al., eds. Christianity in America:A Handbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 162.
7. Quoted in "The Return of the Spirit," Christian History, Issue 23, 27.
8. Dorchester, 287.
9. Orr, 17.
10. Orr, 17.
11. Keith J. Hardman, The Spiritual Awakeners. (Chicago: Moody, 1983), 131.
12. Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 116.
This article first appeared in Revival Commentary 1, no. 2 (Fall 1996): 5-7.
Copyright © 1996 Donald S. Whitney.
Copyright Disclaimer: All the information contained on the Center for Biblical Spirituality website is copyrighted by Donald S. Whitney. Permission granted to copy this material in its complete text only for not-for-profit use (sharing with a friend, church, school, Bible study, etc.) and including all copyright information. No portion of this website may be sold, distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, or commercially exploited without the prior written permission from Donald S. Whitney.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Good Morning. Below is Charles Spurgeon's daily devotion for today. Praise the Lord that we are safe in His hands. Have a great day. Bryan
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Faith's Check Book, Daily Entry
C. H. Spurgeon
High Places of Defense
He shall dwell on high: his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. (Isaiah 33:16)
The man to whom God has given grace to be of blameless life dwells in perfect security.
He dwells on high, above the world, Out of gunshot of the enemy, and near to heaven. He has high aims and motives, and he finds high comforts and company. He rejoices in the mountains of eternal love, wherein he has his abode.
He is defended by munitions of stupendous rock. The firmest things in the universe are the promises and purposes of the unchanging God, and these are the safeguard of the obedient believer.
He is provided for by this great promise: "Bread shall be given him." As the enemy cannot climb the fort, nor break down the rampart, so the fortress cannot be captured by siege and famine. The Lord, who rained manna in the wilderness, will keep His people in good store even when they are surrounded by those who would starve them.
But what if water should fail? That cannot be. "His waters shall be sure." There is a never-failing well within the impregnable fortress. The Lord sees that nothing is wanting. None can touch the citizen of the true Zion. However fierce the enemy, the Lord will preserve His chosen.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
From Spurgeon's sermon, "True Prayer--True Power!"
Cold prayers ask for a denial.
The lips may move, yet the heart remain silent.
When we ask the Lord coolly, and not fervently,
we do as it were, stop his hand, and restrain him from
giving us the very blessing we pretend that we are seeking.
Oh, those cold-hearted prayers that die upon the lips--
those frozen supplications, how can they move God's heart?
They do not come from our own souls, they do not well up
from the deep secret springs of our inmost heart, and
therefore they cannot rise up to him who only hears the cry
of the soul, before whom hypocrisy can weave no veil,
or formality practice any disguise.
We must be earnest, otherwise we have no right
to hope that the Lord will hear our prayer.
Shall I come into your presence, O my God,
and mock you with cold-hearted words?
Do the angels veil their faces before you, and shall I be
content to prattle through a form, with no soul and no heart?
We should speak to God from our own hearts,
and talk to him as a child talks to his father.
God always has an open ear and a ready hand,
if you have an open and ready heart.
Take your groanings and your sighs to God
and he will answer you.
"Our prayers are God's decrees in another shape."
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
R.A. Torrey, in his sermon called: "The Power of Prayer" based on James 4.2 said...
"There is nothing else in which the church and the ministry of today or, to be more explicit, you and I have departed more notably and more lamentably from apostolic precedent than this matter of prayer...
We do not live in a praying age...
A very considerable proportion of the membership of the evangelical churches today do not believe even theoretically in prayer."
This sermon was preached around 100 years ago, but is Torrey's assessment true today?
Well, revival has not come yet!
Monday, November 27, 2006
In a few hours, I will officiate at a funeral of a lady from my church who passed away on Thanksgiving Day. She was a faithful follower of Jesus for over 50 years. I believe the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1.21 summed up her life:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain
May that be the prayer and the goal of our lives--24/7. Daily, we can long to please and honor the Lord Jesus.
Have a good day
Friday, November 24, 2006
Profiles In Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
By Richard Klein
The 700 Club
CBN.com - The reign of terror unleashed by the Nazi hordes during World War II took an incalculable toll in suffering and the destruction of human life. While the excesses of Hitler's epic military quest redefined the nature of armed conflict, it was within Germany's own borders that the Nazis displayed the true depths of their ruthless depravity. And though the Jewish people bore the brunt of hideous torture and systematic death, devout Christians opposed to Hitler, often met similar fates.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one such man, a modern martyr whose crucible experience at the hands of the Nazis created a new understanding of the cost of discipleship.
Coming of age in the chaotic years of Germany’s post-war Weimer Republic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer seemed an unlikely candidate for ministry. He was just completing his graduate studies when Adolph Hitler began his meteoric rise to power. Bonhoeffer felt an immediate disgust for the Nazis, which unfortunately wasn’t shared by the majority of his fellow churchmen. The “Cradle of the Reformation” had become, almost overnight, the cradle of menacing fascism.
The hysteria and pageantry of Nazism quickly supplanted Germany’s former spiritual life. Bonhoeffer despaired as he watched Christians do little to hinder Hitler’s sinister agenda. Writing to friends, he said:
“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds…intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?”
Before the war, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's had challenged Adolph Hitler in a radio address that questioned the very concept of a German Fuhrer. Without his knowledge, his words were censored on air, even as he spoke.
This speech alone would have marked him as an enemy of the state. But Bonhoeffer soon became involved in a network of underground seminaries formed to guard theological study against the taint of Nazi ideology. Before long, the Gestapo moved in and closed the secret schools, and Bonhoeffer escaped briefly to America, where he was warmly welcomed.
As he agonized over whether to return to his home in Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer also struggled with his self-declared pacifism. In a letter to his sister-in-law, he wrote:
“If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”
Throughout the terrible first years of World War II, Bonhoeffer worked secretly against the Nazis. Implicated in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, he was actually arrested for his involvement in “Operation 7”, a mission to smuggle a group of Jews across the border into Switzerland.
It was while imprisoned that Dietrich Bonhoeffer articulated the theological models that had directed his personal Christian walk. During the next twelve months he poured forth a lifetime of work, outlining a new concept of Christian service and bringing a fresh dimension to the idea of discipleship.
On April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was brought to a Nazi extermination camp. There he was condemned to die by hanging, just one month before the suicide of Hitler and the final collapse of the Third Reich.
As he prayerfully faced his death, Bonhoeffer’s last words to a fellow inmate were:
“This is the end. For me, the beginning of life.”
The legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is in no way diminished by the tragedy of his needless death, so close to the war’s conclusion. A man of great intellect and spiritual depth, he was also able to be simple and direct in expressing a courage based on faith.
“I believe that God can and wants to create good out of everything, even evil…I believe that God provides us with as much strength to resist as we need. But he does not give it in advance…We trust Him alone. In such a trust, all anxiety about the future must be overcome.”
To learn more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, visit the International Bonhoeffer Society or the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum web site.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
The prayer below reminds us that of our continue need to seek personal holiness.
A Puritan Prayer
O GOD OF GRACE,
Thou hast imputed my sin to my substitute,and hast imputed his righteousness to my soul,clothing me with a bridegroom's robe,
decking me with jewels of holiness.
But in my Christian walk I am still in rags;
my best prayers are stained with sin;
my penitential tears are so much impurity;
my confessions of wrong are so many aggravations of sin;
my receiving the Spirit is tinctured with selfishness.
I need to repent of my repentance;
I need my tears to be washed;
I have no robe to bring to cover my sins,
no loom to weave my own righteousness;
I am always standing in filthy garments,
and by grace am always receiving change of raiment,
for thou dost always justify the ungodly;
I am always going into the far country,
and always returning home as a prodigal,
always saying, Father, forgive me,
and thou art always bring forth the best robe.
Every morning let me wear it,
every evening return in it,
go out to the day's work in it,
be married in it,
be wound in death in it,
stand before the great white throne in it,
enter heaven in it shining as the sun.
Grant me never to lose sight of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
THE INNER LIFE by Octavius Winslow
The Broken and Contrite Heart
"The Penitence and Prayer of the Inner Life"
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." -Psalm 51:17.
It has been the lowly but the earnest attempt of the preceding pages to stir up the grace of God in the living, believing soul. There is not a moment in the history of the child of God- even those moments that would appear the most favorable to the progress of the Divine life- but there is a tendency in that grace to descend. We have seen how affluent the Word of God is in its metaphorical elucidation of this important subject. And if the figure of 'gray hairs' -of 'wells without water' -of the 'salt that has lost its savor,' can at all depict this melancholy condition of the soul's spiritual deterioration, then is the sad portrait presented to our view in its most vivid coloring, as drawn by the hand of a Divine master.
Although we might have dwelt much longer on this part of our general subject- for we have by no means exhausted all the metaphors of the Bible illustrative of a relapsed state of the spiritual life- but anxious to apply to the disease we have been probing- we hope with not too rude a hand- the Divine balm which the Great Healer has mercifully provided, we leave at this stage of our work the consideration of the relapse, and pass on to that of the recovery- praying, that if to the mind of the reader there is any real discovery of the low state of his soul, if any true and powerful concern as to that state, if any secret contrition, any lowly repentance, and any breathing after a better and a revived condition of the inner life, the words of the royal penitent, which we are about to open up, may fall upon his wounded spirit like balsam from the bleeding tree- with an influence soothing, cheering, and healing.
How sweet and expressive are the words- "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise!" In further prosecution of our design, let us direct our attention to this broken heart, as unfolding the certain evidence of a recovered state of spiritual relapse- and then, to God's especial regard for it, as constituting the great encouragement to our return.
THE BROKEN HEART.
The subject enters deeply into the very soul of real, vital religion. All other religion that excludes as its basis the state of mind portrayed in these words, is as the shell without the pearl, the body without the spirit. It has ever been a leading and favorite scheme of Satan to persuade men to substitute the 'religion of man' for the 'religion of God'. The religion of man has assumed various forms and modifications, always accommodating itself to the peculiar age and history of the world. Sometimes it has been the religion of intellect- and men have prostrated themselves before the goddess of reason. Sometimes it has been the religion of creeds- and men have prided themselves upon the bulwarks of a well-balanced and accurate orthodoxy. At other times it has been the religion of the ascetic and the recluse- and men have fled from the dwellings, of the living, and have entombed themselves in caves and dungeons of the earth. Yet again, it has been the religion of forms and ceremonies- and men have strutted forth in the fancied apparel of superior sanctity. And thus we might proceed almost ad infinitum. All these are human religions, invented by Satan, and palmed upon the world as the religion of God.
We have observed that the religion of man- be its form what it may- has ever kept at the remotest distance from the spiritual; every thing that brought the mind in contact with truth, and the conscience and the heart into close converse with itself and with God, it has studiously and carefully avoided- and thus it has evaded that state and condition of the moral man which constitutes the very soul of the religion of God- "the broken and contrite heart."
There is a sense in which the history of the world is the history of broken hearts. Were the epitaph of many over whose graves- those "mountain-peaks of a new and distant world" we thoughtlessly pass, faithfully inscribed upon the marble tablet that rears above them so proudly its beautifully chiseled form, it would be this- "Died of a Broken Heart." Worldly adversity, blighted hope, the iron heel of oppression, or the keen tongue of slander, crushed the sensitive spirit, and it fled where the rude winds blow not, and "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." Passing beyond the limit of time, we visit in imagination the gloomy precincts of the lost, and lo! we find that the abodes of the finally impenitent are crowded with weeping, mourning, despairing souls. Yes! there are broken hearts there- and there are tears there- and there is repentance there, such as the betrayer of his Lord felt, before he "went to his own place," -but, alas! it is the "sorrow of the world, which works death."
In all this worldly grief, there enters nothing of that element which gives its character and complexion to the sorrow of David- the broken and contrite heart, the sacrifice of God which he despises not. A man may weep, and a lost soul may despair, from the consequences of sin; but in that sorrow and in that despair there shall be no real heartfelt grief for sin itself, as a thing against a holy and a righteous God. But we are now to contemplate, not the broken spirit merely, but the contrite heart also- the sorrow of sincere repentance and deep contrition springing up in the soul for sin- its exceeding sinfulness and abomination in the sight of God.
The state which we have now in contemplation defines the first stage in conversion. The repentance which is enkindled in the heart at the commencement of the Divine life, may be legal and tending to bondage; nevertheless it is a spiritual, godly sorrow for sin, and is 'unto life.' The newly awakened and aroused sinner may at first see nothing of Christ, he may see nothing of the blood of atonement, and of God's great method of reconciliation with him, he may know nothing of faith in Jesus as the way of peace to his soul- yet, he is a true and sincere spiritual penitent. The tear of holy grief is in his eye- ah! we forget not with what ease some can weep; there are those the fountain of whose sensibility lies near the surface- an arousing discourse, an affecting book, a thrilling story, will quickly moisten the eye,but still we must acknowledge that the religion of Jesus is the religion of sensibility; that there is no godly repentance without feeling, and no spiritual contrition apart from deep emotion.
Yes! the tear of holy grief is in his eye; and if ever it is manly to weep, surely it is now, when for the first time the soul that had long resisted every appeal to its moral consciousness, is now smitten to the dust, the heart of adamant broken, and the lofty spirit laid low before the cross of Jesus. O it is a holy and a lovely spectacle, upon which angels, and the Lord of angels himself, must look with ineffable delight. Reader, have you reached this the primary stage in the great change of conversion? Have you taken this the first step in the soul's travel towards heaven? It is the knowledge of the disease which precedes the application to the remedy; it is the consciousness of the wound which brings you into contact with the Healer and the healing. O who, once having experienced the truth, would wish to escape this painful and humiliating process? who would refuse to drink the wormwood and the gall, if only along this path he could reach the sunlight spot where the smiles of a sin-pardoning God fall in focal glory and power? Who would not bare his bosom to the stroke, when the hand that plucks the dart and heals the wound, is the hand through whose palm the rough nail was driven- "wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities?" Who would not endure the uneasiness of sin, but to feel the rest that Jesus gives to the weary? and who would not experience the mourning for transgression, but to know the comfort which flows from the loving heart of Christ?
Again the question is put- has the Spirit of God revealed to you the inward plague, has he brought you just as you are to Jesus, to take your stand upon the doctrine of his unmerited, unpurchased mercy- asking for pardon as a beggar, praying for your discharge as a bankrupt, and beseeching him to take you as a homeless wanderer into the refuge of his loving and parental heart?
THE DIVINE RESTORING.
But the state of holy contrition which we are describing marks also a more advanced stage in the experience of the spiritual man; a stage which defines one of the most interesting periods of the Christian's life- the Divine restoring. David was a backslider. Deeply and grievously had he departed from God. But he was a restored backslider, and, in the portion we are now considering, we have the unfoldings of his sorrow-stricken, penitent, and broken heart, forming, perhaps, to some who read this page, the sweetest portion of God's word. But of the truth of this we are quite assured, that in proportion as we are brought into the condition of godly sorrow for sin, deep humiliation for our backslidings from God, our relapses, and declensions in grace, there is no portion of the sacred word that will so truly express the deep emotions of our hearts, no language so fitted to clothe the feelings of our souls, as this psalm of the royal penitent: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge."
Thus upon the altar of God he lays the sacrifice of a broken heart, and seems to exclaim, "Wretch that I am to have forsaken such a God, to have left such a Father, Savior and Friend. Has he ever been unto me a wilderness, a barren land? Never! Have I ever found him a broken cistern? Never! Has he ever proved to me unkind, unfaithful, untrue? Never! What! did not God satisfy me, had not Jesus enough for me, did not a throne of grace make me happy, that I should have turned my back upon such a God, should have forsaken such a bosom as Christ's, and slighted the spot where my heavenly Father had been so often wont to meet and commune with me? Lord! great has been my departure, grievous my sin, and now most bitter is my sorrow; here at your feet, upon your altar, red with the blood of your own sin-atoning sacrifice, I lay my poor, broken, contrite heart, and beseech you to accept and heal it."
"Behold, I fall before your face;
My only refuge is your grace.
No outward forms can make me clean,
The leprosy lies deep within."
Such is the holy contrition which the Spirit of God works in the heart of the restored believer. Such is the recovery of the soul from its spiritual and mournful relapse. Brought beneath the cross and in the sight of the crucified Savior, the heart is broken, the spirit is melted, the eye weeps, the tongue confesses, the bones that were broken rejoice, and the contrite child is once more clasped in his Father's forgiving, reconciled embrace. "He restores my soul," is his grateful and adoring exclamation. O what a glorious God is ours, and what vile wretches are we!
But there is one declaration of the royal penitent which enunciates a most precious truth- the Lord's especial regard for the broken and the contrite heart. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." There are those by whom it is despised. Satan despises it- though he trembles at it. The world despises it- though it stands in awe of it. The Pharisee despises it- though he attempts its counterfeit. But there is one who despises it not. "YOU will not despise it," exclaims this penitent child, with his eye upon the loving heart of his God and Father. But why does God not only not despise it, but delights in and accepts it? Because he sees in it a holy and a fragrant sacrifice. It is a sacrifice, because it is offered to God, and not to man.
It is an oblation laid upon his altar. Moses never presented such an oblation- Aaron never offered such a sacrifice in all the gifts which he offered, in all the victims which he slew. And while some have cast their rich and splendid gifts into the treasury, or have laid them ostentatiously upon the altar of Christian benevolence, God has stood by the spot to which some poor penitent has brought his broken heart for sin, the incense of which has gone up before Him as a most precious and fragrant sacrifice. Upon that oblation, upon that gift, his eye has been fixed, as if one object, and one only, had arrested and absorbed his gaze- it was a poor, broken heart that lay bleeding and quivering upon His altar.
It is a sacrifice, too, offered upon the basis of the atoning sacrifice of his dear Son- the only sacrifice that satisfies Divine justice- and this makes it precious to God. So infinitely glorious is the atonement of Jesus, so divine, so complete, and so honoring to every claim of his moral government, that he accepts each sacrifice of prayer, of praise, of penitence, and of personal consecration, laid in faith by the side and upon that one infinite Sacrifice for sin.
He recognizes in it, too, the work of his own Spirit. When the Spirit of God moved upon the face of unformed nature, and a new world sprang into life, light, and beauty, he pronounced it very good. But what must be his estimate of that new creation which his Spirit has wrought in the soul, whose moral chaos he has reduced to life, light, and order! If God so delighted in the material and the perishable creation, how deep and ineffable must be his delight in the spiritual and the imperishable creation! If such his satisfaction at a new-born world, destined so soon to be marred by sin, and smitten by the curse, and consumed by the flames- what do you think must be his satisfaction in beholding a world springing from its ruins, whose purity sin shall never deface, whose loveliness no curse shall ever blight, and whose duration shall survive in ever-growing and imperishable beauty and grandeur the destruction of all worlds!
But in what way does God evince his satisfaction with, and his delight in, the broken and contrite heart? We answer- first, by the manifestation of his power in healing it. There are two portions of God's word in which this truth is strikingly brought out. "He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds." The office of Jesus as a Divine healer is with signal beauty set forth- "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted." Never did a physician more delight to display his skill, or exercise the benevolent feelings of his nature in the alleviation of suffering, than does Jesus in his work of binding up, soothing and healing the heart broken for sin, by speaking a sense of pardon, and applying to it the balsam of his own most precious blood. But our Lord not only heals the contrite heart, but as if heaven had not sufficient attraction as his dwelling-place, he comes down to earth and makes that heart his abode: "Thus says the Lord, To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word." And again, "Thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
What, dear, humble penitent, could give you such a view of the interest which Christ takes in your case- the delight with which he contemplates your contrition, and the welcome and the blessing which he is prepared to bestow upon you, on your casting yourself down at his feet, no, in throwing yourself in his very arms, wide expanded to receive you, than this fact, that he waits to make that sorrow-stricken heart of yours his chief and loved abode- reviving it, healing it, and enshrining himself forever within its renewed and sanctified affections.
Thus we have attempted to describe the twofold process by which the lapsed state of the inner life is arrested and restored- this process, as we have shown, consisting in the knowledge which the believer entertains of the real state of the spiritual life in his soul, and then in the godly sorrow, the holy contrition, which that discovery produces. What more shall we say? One thing only. Be your state what it may, seek, cherish, and cultivate constantly and habitually, a broken heart for sin. Think not that it is a work which once done is to be done no more. Deem it not a primary stage in your spiritual journey, which once reached, never again occurs in your celestial progress. O no! As in the natural life we enter the world weeping and leave it weeping, so in the spiritual life- we begin it in tears of godly sorrow for sin, and we terminate it in tears of godly sorrow for sin- passing away to that blessed state of sinlessness where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.
The indwelling of all evil- the polluting nature of the world along which we journey- our constant exposure to temptations of every kind- the many occasions on which we yield to those temptations- the perpetual developments of sin unseen, unknown, even unsuspected by others- the defilement which attaches itself to all that we put our hands to, even the most spiritual and holy and heavenly- the consciousness of what a holy God must every moment see in us- all, all these considerations should lead us to cherish that spirit of lowliness and contrition, self-abhorrence and self-renunciation, inward mortification and outward humility of deportment, which belong to, and which truly prove the existence of, the life of God in our souls.
And what, too, prompts a constant traveling to the atoning blood- what endears the Savior who shed that blood? What is it that makes his flesh food indeed, and his blood drink indeed? What is it that keeps the conscience tender and clean? What enables the believer to walk with God as a dear child? O it is the secret contrition of the lowly spirit, springing from a view of the cross of Jesus, and through the cross leading to the heart of God.
Your religion, dear reader, is a vain religion, if there enters not into it the essential element of a broken and a contrite heart for sin. With Job you may have heard of Jesus, "with the hearing of the ear," but not with him, have "abhorred yourself, and repented in dust and in ashes." Oh! with all your gettings, get, I beseech you, a broken heart for sin. God can have no transactions with you in the great matter of your soul's salvation, but as he sees you prostrate at his feet in repentance, humiliation, and confession. He will only deal with you for the stupendous blessings of pardon, justification, and adoption, in the character and posture of a broken-hearted sinner, urging your suit through the mediation of a broken-hearted Savior. He can negotiate only on those terms which justify and magnify the stupendous sacrifice of his only-begotten and well-beloved Son.
If, then, you value your eternal interests, if you cherish any proper regard for the final happiness of your soul- if you wish to escape the wrath to come- the undying worm, the quenchless flame, the unutterable, interminable torments of the lost- if you shrink from the risk, the almost certain risk, involved in the circumstances of your final sickness, and a dying hour- then repent, repent sincerely, repent deeply, repent evangelically, repent- NOW! For, "God NOW commands all men everywhere to REPENT, because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness."
Backsliding Christian! Do you feel within your heart the kindlings of godly sorrow? Are you mourning over your wandering, loathing the sin that drew you from Christ, that grieved his Spirit, and wounded your own peace? Are you longing to feed again in the green pastures of the flock, and by the side of the Shepherd of the flock, assured once more that you are a true sheep, belonging to the one fold, known by, and precious to, the heart of Him who laid down his life for the sheep? Then approach the altar of Calvary, and upon it lay the sacrifice of a broken and a contrite heart, and your God will accept it. The door of your return stands open- the pierced heart of Jesus. The golden scepter that bids you approach is extended- the outstretched hand of a pacified Father. The banquet is ready, and the minstrels are tuning their harps to celebrate the return from your wanderings to your Father's heart and home, with the gladness of feasting, and with the voice of thanksgiving and of melody!
"Return, O wanderer, return!
And seek an injured Father's face;
Those warm desires that in you burn
Were kindled by recovering grace.
"Return, O wanderer, return!
Your Savior bids your spirit live;
Go to his bleeding side, and learn
How freely Jesus can forgive.
"Return, O wanderer, return!
Regain your lost lamented rest;
Jehovah's melting affections yearn
To clasp his Ephraim to his breast."